Every once in a while an idea comes along that stays with you, and guides you as you move along day by day, year by year through our career. I heard such a sentence more than 10 years ago while interviewing a prospective sales manager, and the idea was as simple as it was useful.

I asked this manager to tell me how he viewed a sales organization at the macro level – what framework did he use to consider the parts (i.e. individual salespeople) and their respective place as a part of the larger group.

He told me that he splits the sales organization into thirds:

In the top third, you have your top performers. His main idea there – get obstacles out of their way to enable them to do what it is they were doing well already.

In the middle third, you have your good reps – those who may not be at the peak in the organization, but they are getting consistent results, contributing, and finding some success. His objective with this group was to try to coach and mentor them to get them into the top group.

In the bottom third, you have new reps who had not yet had the chance to climb up into the other groups, and those who just were not finding success. The objective there is to get them either up into the next group, or out of the organization.

Now as with most things, daily execution and individual circumstances make simple models more complicated than their high level simplicity implies, but the model makes an awful lot of sense as a point of departure for sales managers. Accordingly, I have used it ever since in my own sales management endeavors as well as in my books and with my clients.

If you like the idea, and prefer color coding (and temperature based analogies), you can think of it this way:

Top third = Red
Red is hot – get things out of their way and keep the fire going!

Bottom third = Blue
Blue is cold – warm them up or get them out of the nice warm sales organization you are trying to build or sustain.

Middle third = White
As a color, white is neutral – it can go either way, and you should consider those in this group as having the potential to do just that. It is your job to support that – one way or the other.

Each person in your sales organization deserves individual consideration so that you as the manager can help them to succeed to the extent that it is possible for them to do so. There is no formula that will answer every question, but if you start by deciding which group each salesperson is in, you enter your interactions with them from a clear perspective and with a clear goal, and as a macro framework for sales managers, that seems pretty useful to me.

When you combine this color coding scheme with the sales management matrix that I described in my second book Managing the Sales Process and blogged about here, then you have the basis for a solid sales management approach that is both consistent and effective.



Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!